When it comes to family travel, doing off the beaten path travl isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. Most people usually think of a holiday on the beach. Or perhaps, family travel involves touring a well-known city in Europe or America. Or even more common, spending the weekend at a theme park or an all-inclusive resort.
Back in my younger days, I used to scoff at the idea of going to an all-inclusive resort, or paying money to be part of a tour group. Now that I am a mother of two young kids, I have to admit there is something appealing about the thought of going on a trip where you know everything will be available to you and everything will be taken care of.
These days, my family trips tend to be more on the conventional side compared to trips I used to take as a solo traveler. I have yet to ride in bush taxis across West Africa with my children, or drag them through the chaos of an Indian market, or even take them on a walkabout in the Australian outback. But a lot of this is due to financial restrictions rather than fear or anxiety.
If money were no object, I would be traipsing across the globe with my children in a heartbeat. However, since money is a rather important thing to consider when traveling with family, we’ve ended up having to limit our travel to essentially one big trip per year.
Doing off the beaten path travel with a family
Despite the limit on number of trips, we’ve never really had a limit on where we could go on our travels. Aside from fairly popular tourist destinations like Southeast Asia and New York City, we’ve taken our kids to off the beaten path places like Paraguay. And even within Southeast Asia, we have traveled to some fairly rustic destinations, like Sumatra, with our kids.
There is something important about going off the beaten path with your kids. To me, it teaches them that there is a great big world out there. I loved seeing my daughter, who was two at the time, soak in the sights and sounds when we were staying at a farm in Paraguay. She spent her days pointing out the different animals she saw, and chasing the chickens all over the place. Even now, three years later, she still remembers bits and pieces of our stay on the farm in Paraguay.
Creating family memories
Another thing I love about going on an off the beaten path family trip is that it makes for interesting stories. On our most recent trip to Indonesia back in September, we spent several days in Bukit Lawang on the island of Sumatra, staying at a guest house located just on the edge of a Gunung Leuser National Park. Part of our stay involved a jungle trek, and on the trek, my kids and I were able to see orangutans and macaques just several feet away from us. It was quite the experience, and my daughter is still talking about it months later.
At this young age, kids don’t understand the role that they have in the world, or the impact that their travels have on communities around the world. But at the same time, I honestly think that exposing kids to the world helps to nurture responsible travel. When we went to the Philippines in 2012, my stepson, who was 14 at the time, was struck by how different the way of life was like in rural Philippines compared to what he had grown up with in the US. This was his first time in a developing country, and I think it really had an impact on helping him appreciate his own privileges and advantages.
Connecting with the world
By far, the most important thing about traveling off the beaten path is that it connects you to the rest of the world. Staying at an all-inclusive resort is relaxing, but there is something isolating and disconnected about the experience. It’s really difficult to even catch a glimpse of the local culture if your exposure to it is always through the lens of the hotel’s hospitality agenda.
Some of the things I really like to do when I travel is walk around the city, shop at local grocery stores or markets, and eat at food stalls or local eateries. We did this all through our Southeast Asia trip several years ago, and also on our recent trip to Indonesia. The constant having to figure things out kept my husband and me on our toes, and also made for some interesting and eventful days.
In actuality, all travel, whether off the beaten path or not, can be enlightening. But if our ultimate goal for family travel is to raise global citizens, then the best way to have them learn about the world is to show them the world. So for your next family trip, why not be a bit adventurous and take the road less traveled. I guarantee it will be worth the effort.
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